Editor’s Note: This article is part of Know Your Meme’s annual Top Ten Review series looking back at some of the most memorable and popular memes, events and people that defined the Internet culture in 2013 as we know it. And brace yourselves, the grand finale list Best Memes of 2013 is coming soon. In the meantime, check out Cheezburger’s year-in-review of internet memes over at Memebase!
ore than ever before, 2013 was a year ripe with opportunity for crowdfunding, viral marketing and human rights campaigns. Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made online donations a breeze, YouTube has given advertisers a place to get even more eyeballs and the social media giants Facebook and Twitter have become prime spots to spread one’s political beliefs. Here’s our round-up of the year’s top campaigns that managed to successfully utilize the Internet to further their goals.
#10: Legal Defense Fund for Arrested Anons
- Mission: A fundraising campaign for the legal defense of members of Anonymous that have been legally prosecuted.
- Organizer: FreeAnons on April 23rd, 2013
- Background: Following several high profile DDoS attacks orchestrated by hackvists from Anonymous for Operation Payback, 14 defendants, known as the “Pay Pal 14,” were arrested and charged with conspiring to disrupt access to Pay Pal payment services.
- Reception: $13,067.62 in donations on WePay
- Note: Inspired the “Dancing for Anons” video series, in which participants dance in front of a camera, was created to encourage others to donate to the legal defense fund.
#9: Abercrombie & Fitch Clothes for the Homeless
- Mission: A “brand readjustment” campaign to donate Abercrombie & Fitch apparel to local homeless shelters.
- Organizer: Los Angeles-based writer Greg Karper on May 13th, 2013
- Background: The campaign was lanched to protest the company’s controversial marketing strategy that discriminates against plus-sized body types.
- Reception: 8,038,045 YouTube Views | 33,000 Twitter mentions | 2,200 Reddit up votes
- Note: The operation was criticized for being insulting to homeless people and using them as props.
#8: Trolling the NSA with Trigger Keywords
- Mission: A crowdsourced scheme with the objective of overloading the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance system by transmitting a scripted email loaded with suspicious keywords en masse and all at 7:00 PM on June 12th.
- Organizer: BuzzFeed staff writers Chris Baker and Mike Lacher on June 10th, 2013
- Background: In early June 2013, The Guardian published exclusive reports that the NSA had obtained the telephone records of millions of Americans and that the agency had enacted a program giving them unrestricted access to personal accounts on a variety of Internet services.
- Reception: TrollTheNSA.com received over 96,000 Facebook likes | 8,055 Twitter mentions
- Note: The operation was immediately followed by the launch of TriggerTreat, a web app which generates a page full of NSA trigger keywords.
#7: Pro-Gay Childrens Books to Russia
- Mission: A campaign aiming to deliver 10,000 copies of pro-gay coloring books to Russian children via mail during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
- Organizer: FCKH8 on October 30th, 2013
- Background: On September 5th, 2013, Human Rights Watch released an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, urging the Russian leader to repeal law 135-FZ, which bans disseminating information promoting homosexual relationships to minors.
- Note: The campaign was criticized by some who questioned the legal consequences for the potential recipients of the coloring books.
#6: Oreo Cookie Separator Machines
- Mission: A viral marketing campaign featuring devices made to split Oreo cookies into two pieces and remove the cream filling.
- Background: Wieden + Kennedy had previously orchestrated the widely successful The Man Your Man Could Smell Like Old Spice Internet campaign.
- Reception: 5,446887 total YouTube views across four videos
- Note: The physicist from the first ad was revealed to be Widen + Kennedy employee David Neeval. Following the success of the ads, other YouTubers began posting videos of their own separator machines.
#5: Justice for Daisy Coleman
- Mission: An online vigilant campaign seeking to draw national attention to a sexual assault case involving Maryville, Missouri residents Daisy Coleman and Matthew Barnett.
- Organizer: Anonymous on October 14th, 2013
- Background: On March 13th, 2012, sexual assault charges made against Matthew Barnett were dropped, alledgedly due to lack of evidence. On October 12th, 2013, the Kansas City Star published an article about the story, noting that the Coleman’s left Maryville due to the mother losing her job, that their house mysteriously burned down in April and that Daisy had attempted suicide twice since the incident.
- Reception: 130,000 YouTube views prior to removal | 17,284 Facebook Likes on the “Justice for Daisy Coleman” page
- Note: On October 17th, Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice announced that a motion had been filed to reopen the assault case. On the following day, the women’s interest blog XoJane published a piece written by Coleman about her experience.
#4: Homeless Good Samaritan Fundraiser
- Mission: A fundraiser aimed to reward homeless Boston resident Glen James for returning a backpack containing $42,100 to its rightful owner.
- Organizer: Virginia resident Ethan Whittington on September 17th, 2013
- Background: On September 15th, 2013, CBS Boston reported that a homeless man, later identified as James, had turned in a backpack filled with $2,400 in cash and $39,500 in travelers checks to the police.
- Reception: The GoFundMe donation page received $159,590 in donations |15,000 Facebook shares | 1,100 tweets
- Note: James was rewarded by Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis for his “extraordinary show of character and honesty.”
#3: North Korean Cyber Attacks
- Mission: A series of cyber attacks against various websites and social media accounts tied to the North Korean government.
- Organizer: AnonymousKorea on March 30th, 2013
- Background: On March 29th, 2013, North Korea’s state-run news agency issued a statement that its leader Kim Jong Un approved military plans for striking American and South Korean targets.
- Reception: 558,733 YouTube views
- Note: AnonymousKorea launched a DDoS attack which brought down five of North Korea’s official government websites, hacked several social media accounts for the North Korean central news agency Uriminzokkri and claimed to have obtained 5,000 classified military documents from the government’s Kyangmyung intranet. Coinciding with the 63rd anniversary of the Korean War in June, a series of cyber attacks were carried out against several Korean Central News Agency websites and the state-owned airline Air Koryo.
#2: Real Beauty Sketches
- Mission: A short film promoting the “Real Beauty” marketing campaign by the personal care brand Dove featuring the FBI-trained sketch artist Gil Zamora who sketches several women based on descriptions of themselves and descriptions told by people they had just met.
- Background: Since 2005, Dove has conducted the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” marketing campaign inspired by research suggesting that 4% of women describe themselves as beautiful.
- Reception: 60.5 million YouTube views
- Note: The ad inspired the creation of a parody male version, which garnered over 3.2 million views.
#1: Red Equal Sign
- Mission: A banner image of an equals sign used by Facebook and Twitter users to show their support of same-sex marriage.
- Organizer: The Human Rights Campaign LGBT equality-rights advocacy and lobbying group on March 25th, 2013
- Background: The campaign was launched in opposition of California’s same-sex marriage ban ballot initiative known as Proposition 8, which was deliberated by the United States Supreme Court on March 26th, 2013.
- Reception: The day after the campaign was launched, Facebook saw a 120% increase in profile avatar changes with 2.7 million photo switches
- Note: Several celebrities and public figures changed their profile avatars to the sign, including actor George Takei, singer Lance Bass and Maryland governor Martin O’Malley.